A woman on Facebook posted, “I am devastated. My husband has erectile dysfunction. He says it isn’t me, but I feel like I’m not attractive enough for him. He never even approaches me now, and I feel like he doesn’t want me anymore.”
Sadly, it’s a common reaction when a woman’s partner has erectile dysfunction.
A study done in 2018  found that 74% of women report some impact or a major impact in their self-esteem when their partner suffers from ED. Women in the survey said, “I do sometimes feel that he no longer finds me sexually attractive, or that he no longer gets aroused by my advances” and “Lack of intimacy has led to problems in other areas of relationship. Self-worth is zero.”
It’s very important for women to understand that erectile dysfunction is a medical condition. It’s not their fault, and it’s not their partner’s fault. But it is something that both partners need to acknowledge and deal with.
Advice from an Intimacy Coach
According to Jennifer Stephan, a sex and intimacy coach who helps men (and women) deal with erectile dysfunction, “ED affects men physically, mentally, and emotionally, but it does also affect their partners […] We’re talking about relationships, so it’s not just one person involved.”
For example, it can be helpful for women to understand the causes of erectile dysfunction, to lessen their feelings of inadequacy. There are a wealth of online resources to learn about erectile dysfunction, including WebMD.com, Healthline.com, and EDtreatment.info.
Armed with this knowledge, a woman can also get some insight into their partner’s condition, and how it is affecting him. Jennifer Stephan says, “She can be a detective, right? Women are like junior detectives when it comes to their men, so she can understand the situation herself. Have there been any changes to his health? Is he taking new medications? These are things that can cause ED.”
Having a Conversation about Erectile Dysfunction
The next step is to talk about the issue. This can be the hardest step, because it’s very difficult for most men to talk about erectile dysfunction.
Stephan says, “Men go through an array of emotions and they are almost hardwired to not want to discuss this. It’s definitely never a conversation they’ve had with their dad and or mother, or their buddies, or even their doctor. Jim is never going to go to a barbecue and walk up to Bill while he’s flipping burgers and say, ‘hey you know I’m having a problem with erectile dysfunction.’ ”
There’s no magic way to talk to men about ED. Some men respond best to a direct approach; other men are more comfortable with a casual conversation. A woman needs to draw on what she knows about her man, and how to approach him.
“How does he communicate about things? Is he the guy who likes to sit down face to face and have you look him directly in the eye and tell him what’s on your mind? Or is he a guy who wants you to hold his hand and cuddle him and talk about it? Or would he rather have a post-it note?”
Whatever the approach, it’s important for a woman to be clear that she loves him and supports him, and she wants to help him get through it.
An important part of the conversation is talking about getting help. Research shows that many men don’t want to talk to a doctor about ED , but it is a medical issue. There are many things that can cause ED, and sometimes it’s a symptom of a serious underlying condition. A doctor can (hopefully) rule out anything serious, determine the cause, and recommend appropriate treatments.
Communication Requires Knowing Your Partner
Stephan says that approaching this will also depend on a woman knowing her partner.
“Is your partner the type of guy where you’re like ‘I made an appointment with the doctor. This is when we’re going, so show up!’ Maybe that’s your husband.”
“Or maybe you need to write down the phone number of a doctor and ask him to call.”
“Or maybe it’s ‘Hey, look, we need to find out what’s going on because I’m worried there could be something serious. I realize you’re concerned about the erectile dysfunction but I’m worried about your health. You know I love you I want you to be healthy and that’s why I think we need to go check this out.’ “
“You need to find the way that works for your man, but it’s important to take that step.”
Improving Your Sex Life When Your Partner Has Erectile Dysfunction
Whatever the underlying cause, there are effective treatments for erectile dysfunction, including medications like Viagra and Cialis, that allow most men to have a normal sex life. Even for men who don’t respond to treatment, ED doesn’t mean the end to intimacy or to a satisfying sex life. For some couples, ED can be an opportunity to explore and increase their intimacy…. but it takes good communication!
However, communication sometimes means moving out of your comfort zone, and telling your partner what you need. For some couples, non-verbal communication is easier.
As an example, Stephan says “You’re in the middle of having intercourse and you desperately just want him to play with your clit, but you say nothing every single time because you’re terrified to say so. You’re not evolving, you’re just staying comfortable, and you’re probably miserable as well, right, and that builds resentment rather than intimacy.”
“So, you know, instead you just take his hand and gently put it where you want.”
Getting Help to Deal With Erectile Dysfunction
Erectile dysfunction can damage and even destroy relationships. It’s possible to work through the issues, but it’s not always easy. Most couples are not good at talking openly about sex.
Just as ED requires help from a doctor, dealing with emotional issues may require help from a professional who specializes in communication, sex, and intimacy.
Jennifer Stephan explains, “For these very clear sexual issues, and issues around ED, you’re really looking for somebody who has that kind of specific expertise. Someone that is comfortable talking about these things, and can help you be comfortable talking about these things. That’s basically, you know, a sex coach.”
“Clients come in with a goal. ‘I want to tell my partner what I want, and I want to be more intimate with my partner.’ ”
“It’s not my objective, it’s not my itinerary. It’s everything to do with my clients. What they want and what they need, and finding a way for them to get there in a manner that best works for them.”
You Can Do This!
In the beginning of this article, we talked about how women – and men – often feel devastated by the impact of erectile dysfunction. Getting through it, and rebuilding a healthy intimate relationship, requires knowledge, communication, and sometimes help.
As Jennifer Stephan reminds her clients, “Women and men in relationships are partners. They are a team.”
Together, they can not only overcome ED, but actually build a stronger relationship.